J. Gresham Machen's Theological Method

In 2020 Westminster Seminary Press published Things Unseen: A Systematic Introduction to the Christian Faith and Reformed Theology, the definitive collection of J. Gresham Machen's radio addresses from the 1930s. As a special gift for Machen readers, we are are privileged to publish in full a special companion essay: "J. Gresham Machen's Theological Method" by William D. Dennison.

The modern world and the church are in a state of emergency. J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937) made this declaration in 1934 to his initial radio audience on station WIP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Machen’s characterization of this state of emergency was unlike what his listeners anticipated. Typical hearers surely would have had in mind the economic volatility of the depression, and the political unrest of fascism and communism, with resulting concerns about the stability and survival of democracy. In North America, the social problems were displayed within the populace each day—poverty, depression, crime, unemployment, and the struggle for human dignity. Certainly, Machen would be directing his audience to the cultural, political, social, and economic issues of his day, focusing on how they could bring resolution to each of those. Most listeners would expect him to discuss, in line with the progressive modernists, how Christianity must meet the culture on its own turf, first analyzing the problems of culture, then offering remedies. However, Machen threw his audience a curve. He said the crisis calls not for confrontation and restoration of the visible culture; rather, it calls for a true knowledge and understanding of the person of God and the “unseen world,” the kingdom of heaven.

To continue reading, download the full essay here: J. Gresham Machen's Theological Method

William D. Dennison (MDiv, ThM, Westminster Theological Seminary; PhD, Michigan State University) is professor of interdisciplinary studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain and Pastor of Emmanuel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Kent, Washington. He is the author of Karl Marx in the Great Thinkers Series from P&R.

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